Tag Archives: Iowa

Presidential Paths to Victory

Today we turn our attention to the national election between President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney in order to determine each candidate’s path to victory as the political map begins to evolve and change.

It is evident that are there are approximately a dozen battleground states upon which the candidates are focusing. The competitive states considered to be in this swing category include, alphabetically: Colorado (9 Electoral Votes), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13) and Wisconsin (10).

Last year Obama advisers mapped out five different routes that would secure the minimum 270 Electoral College votes the president needs for re-election. Each path included Obama retaining some, but not all, of the swing states that he won in 2008. As we have seen through nationwide polling data, Team Obama’s strategic tenet in spreading the map as wide as possible is having some effect. Conversely, the Romney brain trust indicates that any realistic course to capturing their identified 270 votes requires them to win back historically Republican states that Obama carried four years ago, such as North Carolina, Indiana, and Virginia.

Each candidate understands the importance of winning the quintessential large swing states of Florida (29 Electoral Votes) and Ohio (18). In 2008, Obama claimed these places and is now spending heavily in hopes of retaining both. Romney advisers see Florida as their candidate’s most important swing state because there is no realistic way to score a national victory without its inclusion. Simply put, Florida’s 29 Electoral Votes are too many to replace.

Currently, several polls reveal Obama as having the edge in Ohio but a recent Gravis Marketing poll of 728 likely voters shows Romney opening up a three-point lead in Florida.

In the past few days two Great Lakes states, Michigan and Wisconsin, are showing signs of teetering toward Romney. Recent polls in both places have returned conflicting results and each candidate can point to data showing him to be in the lead. But even a split decision in August is a positive trend for the challenger.

Michigan, a traditionally Democratic state but one that turned hard for Republicans two years ago, is a place where Romney will heavily contest. A fundamental reason for the strategic decision to do so is his Wolverine State family ties. It is here where the Republican nominee grew up and the electorate twice voted for his father as governor. The Obama senior strategists scoff at the idea that Romney can win Michigan, citing his opposition to the auto bailout and recalling that Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, publicly abandoned the state some six weeks before the election.

Wisconsin, home of vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, has been trending toward the Republicans in similar patterns to Michigan, cemented by Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election victory earlier this year. With former governor Tommy Thompson running strong in the open Senate race, the Badger State is certainly in play for a close Romney victory.

Early in the cycle we, as most other analysts, suggested that after counting Indiana returning to the Republican camp, Romney would have to carry Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, and then one more 2008 Obama state to win the presidency. While such a formula remains valid, the president’s continued performance in Ohio and Virginia suggests that Romney will not likely sweep the four core states. But, numbers coming from the aforementioned Michigan and Wisconsin, and Midwestern and western states such as Iowa, Colorado and possibly Nevada, demonstrates other Republican victory paths are now possible.

Here are the scenarios:

• If the president carries Virginia, a Wisconsin-Iowa combination is the easiest way for Romney to neutralize this Obama core state victory. The Republican would still need one more state, such as New Hampshire, where Obama consistently leads, or Nevada or Colorado to claim national victory. New Mexico, normally a swing state, appears to be currently off the table as the President continues to score double-digit polling leads.

• If Obama wins Ohio, then Romney would be forced to win Wisconsin and Colorado. Under this scenario, Michigan comes into play. Unless Romney carries New Hampshire, Nevada, or Iowa, then the Wolverine State becomes his last neutralization option.

• Should the President carry both Ohio and Virginia, then Romney could still win by taking Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Colorado or Nevada. All scenarios assume that Romney re-unites Nebraska by winning that state’s 2nd Congressional District and thus providing one more vote to his electoral column.

The overall state chart still favors the president, but the campaign’s recent fluidity suggests several new victory options are now attainable for the challenger.

The Big June 5th Primary is Fast Approaching

Next Tuesday, six states go to the polls to nominate Senate and House candidates, and possibly recall a governor. On Monday, we’ll cover all of the hot California races. Today, we look at the other states voting on June 5.

Iowa: In a state promising to be a hotbed of presidential campaign activity in the general election, two, and possibly three, House seats will also be highly competitive. The contenders in Districts 3 and 4 are already set. District 3, anchored in Des Moines and Council Bluffs, will feature a general election incumbent pairing between veteran representatives Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) and Tom Latham (R-IA-4). The new 3rd is very marginal, and this will be a close race. But Tuesday’s primary carries no drama for either man. To the northwest is new District 4, featuring Rep. Steve King (R-IA-5) defending his position against Christie Vilsack (D), the state’s former First Lady. The seat leans Republican, so King is favored, but, as in District 3, Tuesday’s vote is already well-defined.

In the southeastern 2nd District, Rep. David Loebsack (D) faces Davenport state Sen. Joe Seng. Loebsack should hold, but he loses his Cedar Rapids power base to District 1 and adds Davenport, a city he has not previously represented but one in which Seng has served in local government as well as the state legislature. The 2nd has the chance of becoming moderately competitive in the general election particularly if Seng pulls a big upset over the incumbent on Tuesday.

Montana: A gubernatorial primary is underway for the state’s at-large open seat. Attorney General Steve Bullock is the prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary. Former Rep. Rick Hill (R-MT-AL) is attempting a political comeback in this race after being out of office for 12 years. The Senate competitors are already set: Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL). In the open House race, former lieutenant governor nominee Steve Daines has the inside track to the Republican nomination, while the Democrats are in a battle among seven candidates led by state Sen. Kim Gillian and state Rep. Franke Wilmer.

New Jersey: The races here are quiet except for the 9th District Democratic pairing between representatives Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8). This race has been hotly contested for weeks and turned nasty on several occasions. Most believe Rothman has the slight advantage, particularly with official party endorsements in two of the district’s three counties. Pascrell needs a larger than normal turnout in Passaic County to snatch a close win. Surprisingly, the mayor of the district’s largest city, Paterson, has endorsed Rothman as has a member of the city council. These endorsements sting Pascrell because he was a former Paterson mayor before being elected to Congress. The representative does have former president Bill Clinton’s public support. A wild finish is guaranteed here.

New Mexico: In the Senate campaign, it appears that Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and ex-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) are headed for their respective party nominations. This will be a highly competitive general election. In Heinrich’s open House race, a tight Democratic primary is evolving. Polls show state Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County commissioner and former congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham to be in a virtual tie, with former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez trailing the duo. There is no run-off election in New Mexico, so this race will likely being decided on Tuesday by only a handful of votes. Republicans will nominate former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. The eventual Democratic nominee has the inside track for the fall election.

South Dakota: Little in the way of contests are occurring in South Dakota. There is no Senate race this year, and freshman Rep. Kristi Noem (R) is positioning herself for a second term. For the Democrats, Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth and former congressional aide Matt Varilek vie for the right to challenge Noem. Though South Dakota does feature a run-off, the two-way race guarantees that Democratic voters will choose a nominee on Tuesday night. Noem will be a big favorite in the general election.

Wisconsin: Finally, the long-awaited recall election for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will be decided next Tuesday. Momentum had been swinging Walker’s way and he still seems to have more energy behind his candidacy than does Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, his Democratic opponent. At least one survey, however, the Lake Research poll taken for the Democratic Party, shows the race to be a tie. All others give Walker a slight lead. The race will turn on the rate of voter participation and both sides are gearing up for a major effort. The result here could be a harbinger for the general election, certainly in Wisconsin, but possibly nationwide, too. Arguably, this race will have the greatest effect on national politics of any June 5 campaign.

The plethora of California congressional races will be covered in our Monday report.

Obama vs. Romney – The New Map

With Rick Santorum exiting the presidential campaign, the general election pairing between President Barack Obama and GOP-designee Mitt Romney is now unofficially underway. Based upon polling compiled in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Electoral College clearly stacks up in the President’s favor, but the Republicans appear to have already improved their position over John McCain’s dismal 2008 performance.

Today, according to a myriad of public polls, President Obama would carry 26 states plus the District of Columbia for a grand total of 341 Electoral Votes as compared to 24 states and 197 EV’s for Romney. In 2008, the President’s margin of victory over McCain was 365-173, translating into a 64 percent Democratic majority in the Electoral College.

According to the survey data, if the election happened now, the states of Indiana and Iowa would convert from Obama to Romney. The Republican would also reunite Nebraska, meaning the 2nd Congressional District, an EV that went Obama’s way in 2008, would return to the GOP fold. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states who split their Electoral College votes based on statewide and congressional district percentages.

The other change that results in a 12-vote gain for Republicans is reapportionment. With the transfer of 12 congressional seats nationally from one affected state to another, the GOP gains six votes and Obama loses six, for an aggregate swing of 12. This is equivalent to the Republicans converting a state the size of Washington (the only state possessing 12 Electoral votes).

If the polls are accurate, Romney is already gaining 34 Electoral Votes over the McCain total. He is still 73 short of defeating Obama, meaning the states of North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio again become critically important. A Republican sweep of these places would unseat Obama.

Analyzing the Turnout

There have been several media stories and reports this week discussing the alleged downward voter turnout trend in the Republican presidential primaries. As so often is the case with modern-day political reporting, the supposition doesn’t hold water. While true that turnout was down in Florida, Minnesota and Missouri this past Tuesday night, voter participation has actually increased in several other states.

Turnout was mixed on Tuesday. It was up 17.3 percent in Colorado as compared to the 2008 official results, but down 23.9 percent in Minnesota. Voter participation dropped 57.2 percent in Missouri, but that was expected because the primary had no real meaning. Four years ago, the Missouri primary was an important winner-take-all contest. This year the primary vote was merely a straw poll, and the true turnout will be measured once the county caucus votes are cast on March 17.

Overall, the 2012 Republican presidential primary/caucus turnout has increased in four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Colorado) and dropped in an equal number (Florida, Nevada, Minnesota, and Missouri). The 14.2 percent drop in Florida might be the most surprising voter participation figure since many believed the state would cast the deciding votes to effectively end the entire nomination process. South Carolina, in similar position when voters in that state cast ballots just 10 days before Florida, saw a 35.5 percent gain in turnout as compared to four years ago.

Santorum Sweeps Three; Faces Challenges Ahead

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum swept the voting last night at the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and in the non-binding Missouri primary. With his victories, the upstart presidential candidate has now won more states (four) than any other candidate, despite spending far less money.

Finally rebounding after his surprising Iowa win but subsequently followed with poor performances in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada, Santorum topped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 40-35 percent in Colorado, and won by a whopping 55-25 percent margin in Missouri. In Minnesota, he defeated Rep. Ron Paul 45-27 percent, as Romney could only manage 17 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to fall. He performed poorly in Colorado (13 percent) and Minnesota (11 percent) last night, and failed to even qualify for the Missouri primary ballot.

The Missouri vote carried no delegate allocation. This will occur in county caucus meetings beginning March 17. In 2008, the state hosted a winner-take-all primary. The process also continues both in Colorado and Minnesota where delegates are formally apportioned at the district and state conventions later this year.

Looking at the unofficial delegate count after the first seven states to allocate (including Colorado and Minnesota), Romney has 99 delegates, Gingrich 41 (thanks to his South Carolina victory where he gathered 23 of 25 available votes), Santorum 39, and Paul 28. A candidate needs 1,144 delegate votes to secure the nomination, so only 9 percent of the total delegate pool has so far been apportioned. With his strong performance in Missouri, Santorum is in the best position to secure the majority of the state’s 52 delegates when the allocation process begins next month.

Are last night’s results an indication that Santorum can seriously challenge Romney for the nomination? It will still be difficult for him to do so, despite being in reach in the early delegate count. He will likely need to top Romney in Arizona on Feb. 28, because the former Michigan resident will likely win that state on the same day, do well on Super Tuesday (March 6), and hope he can score big later in his home state of Pennsylvania (72 delegates at stake) and conservative Texas (155). He will also have to hold his own in the remaining big northeastern states such as New York and New Jersey.

Scoring victories among some of the 10 Super Tuesday states is a necessity. The downside for Santorum on that day is Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, which is among the voting states, as is Gingrich’s Georgia. And remember, Santorum failed to qualify for the Virginia ballot. So, Ohio, with its 66 delegates becomes critically important for the Santorum cause. He will also need to do well in the Alaska, North Dakota and Idaho caucuses, as well as capturing the Oklahoma (43 delegates) and Tennessee (58) primaries.